Biography of

Euel E. Balkcom (1903-1981)

Master Surname Index

Ancestry Chart of Euel E. Balkcom

 

 

     Euel E. Balkcom was the second of four children of John Ira Balkcom and Ida Lucinda (Baldwin) Balkcom.  John and Ida migrated from Dale County, Alabama to central Texas in around 1901.  Euel was born May 14, 1903, in Grand Saline (Van Zandt County), Texas.  He had an older sister Mae, born in 1899 in Alabama, a younger sister Thelma born while the family was still in Texas, and a younger brother Jake.  When Euel was age 4 or so (between 1906 and 1909) the family moved to Greer County, Oklahoma.  Jake was born there.

     Greer was until 1896 a disputed region, having been claimed by Texas when surveyors mistook the North Fork of the Red River for the Red River itself.  In 1896 the Supreme Court awarded Greer to the Oklahoma Territory.  However, the Choctaw Nation claimed the area as well and it remained disputed until Oklahoma statehood in 1909.  Shortly after statehood, Harmon County was split off from Greer.  The Balkcom family lived near Hollis, in the area that would become Harmon County.

     It appears that the Balkcom family moved to the area before Oklahoma statehood, and current family members don't know the reason for the move from central Texas.  In 1917, when Euel was 14 years old, the family bought a 160 acre farm about 25 miles north in nearby Beckham County.  Euel worked on the farm full time.  It was in Erick, Oklahoma in the 1920's that Euel met Zela Franks, a high school classmate of his younger brother Jake.  Euel and Zela were married in Texola, Oklahoma on Christmas Eve in 1926.  Four sons were born to them between 1927 and 1945.

      Euel worked for the first ten years of their marriage on the family farm.  In 1936 they moved with sons 9 year old Loren and 3 year old Don to Florence, Arizona, joining the Dust Bowl migration west.  This would have been in the heart of the great depression and they may have been looking for a better future than appeared possible in western Oklahoma, although it's possible that they only intended to do migrant work for a season.  At any rate they worked for a year in the Arizona cotton fields, then returned to Beckham County.  Euel remarked in later years about the "taller than your head" size of the irrigated cotton in Arizona.  Oklahoma cotton was at that time un-irrigated and usually no more than knee high.  The chopping, irrigation, and picking of this cotton depended on large numbers of migrant workers.  Based on stories from son Loren, many of these workers were Mexican.

     In 1937 Euel was hired by the Oklahoma State Highway Department, maintaining state roads in Beckham county.  Euel, Zela, and family lived for a time in a rented house in the town of Erick, then moved back to the farm and its small house in around 1945.  The older boys and Zela farmed the 160 acres for a few years.  In 1950 the family moved from Erick 16 miles to the county seat in Sayre, where Euel's work was based.  They lived in rental houses in town (411 West Elm, then at 823 North Sixth).  In 1955, nearly 30 years after they married, they bought their first house, a frame 3 bedroom at 405 North Third.  The house and its adjacent twin were both built by Mr. Wilkerson who with his wife lived in the twin just north of the Balkcom house.  For many years, Zela's parents William Barrett Franks and Flora (Carder) Franks lived in the next-door house to the south.

     Euel retired in 1969 after 33 years with the highway department, with several as foreman of the Beckham County Maintenance Division.  He died in 1981 at the age of 78, of a heart attack.  Euel was healthy for most of his life and rarely saw medical doctors, although he had treatment in later years for facial skin cancer.  He apparently had no foreknowledge of possible heart or circulatory problems. 

     Euel and Zela are buried in the Balkcom plot in the Sayre-Doxey Cemetery just east of the town of Sayre.  (See Tombstone). 

     
 

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